“To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ever hear the term “ambulance driver”?
In most cities across the country, the ambulance driver is no longer a standalone profession. In fact, for most EMTs and paramedics, driving the ambulance is now an extension of their countless other duties and responsibilities.
Since these brave men and women do so much for their communities, the term “ambulance driver” can sometimes be perceived negatively by the EMS community.
The purpose of this article, however, is to shine a light on the specific task of driving an ambulance and some of the credentials that are required to fulfill this obligation.
What Does an Ambulance Driver Do?
Strictly speaking, the responsibility of the “ambulance driver” is to drive the ambulance and transport sick, injured, or non-ambulatory patients to the nearest hospital or medical facility.
The job generally includes helping lift patients into and out of the ambulance and may require administering first aid. Between transporting patients, ambulance drivers often assist with several duties at their medical facility. Their responsibilities may also include fueling, maintaining, and cleaning the ambulance and keeping it stocked with medical supplies.
Since the advent of automobiles, the ambulance driver has been a challenging job that has played an important role in transporting patients and saving lives. Over the years, however, the role of an ambulance driver has expanded to include much more than just driving.
The Evolution of Ambulance Drivers to EMTs
With the development of emergency medical services (EMS), out-of-hospital treatments (like CPR and defibrillation), and new pharmaceuticals, the task of the ambulances has grown dramatically.
Today’s ambulances are mini emergency rooms on wheels, equipped with high-tech tools and life-saving supplies. Today’s EMS providers are licensed healthcare practitioners that can respond to a wide variety of medical situations and provide advanced assessment and care on site. As a result, the number of ambulance drivers that just drive ambulances is relatively small (about 5%).
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there only 14,740 ambulance drivers in the U.S. who are not emergency medical technicians (EMTs) or paramedics. At the same time, there are over 262,100 EMTs and paramedics, and most of them can and do drive ambulances (BLS).
Some employers, mostly rural emergency services, still employ drivers with no medical qualifications (or just basic first aid training) to simply drive the ambulance. However, the vast majority of “ambulance drivers” today are trained as EMTs or paramedics. In addition to driving the ambulance, these EMS professionals also provide crucial emergency services. Many EMTs and paramedics take exception to being called “ambulance drivers” because they do so much more than drive the ambulance.
State Requirements for Ambulance Drivers
An ambulance driver must navigate a 14,000+ pound emergency vehicle through busy streets at high speeds in all conditions, in accordance with various traffic regulations, while transporting sick and injured patients who may be receiving treatment while in route.
Cleary, this role could benefit from specialized training, such as an Emergency Vehicle Operator Course (EVOC). According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there are an estimated 6,500 accidents involving ambulances each year.
Ironically, less than half of the states require even a basic EVOC for this key role in public safety. According to a recent survey by the Department of Homeland Security, Only 17 states and the District of Columbia require an Emergency Vehicle Operator Course (EVOC) for ambulance drivers.
|State||EVOC Required?||State||EVOC Required?|
|Colorado||No||N. Mariana Islands||Yes|
|District of Columbia||Yes||North Carolina||No|
Is Medical Training Required to Become an Ambulance Driver?
Even though ambulances play a bigger role in the delivery of first-response healthcare, many states do not require medical training to legally drive an ambulance.
However, most EMS organizations only hire certified EMT professionals to drive ambulances. In most EMS organizations an EMT drives the ambulance as part of an expanded set of their responsibilities.
How to Get Hired as An Ambulance Driver
Though requirements vary by employer, ambulance drivers are typically educated to the basic EMT level. All states require EMTs and paramedics to complete a formal EMT training program.
Depending on the program, basic EMT training may include up to 120 hours of classroom education and several days of clinical or field training. To obtain their certifications, EMTs must also pass a written and practical exam from the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT).
(Click here to learn how to become an EMT).
Employers that do not require ambulance drivers to be EMTs often require ambulance drivers to have at least cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and basic life support (BLS) certification. These 1- or 2-day courses are available from the American Red Cross, colleges and other community resources.
Some employers provide on-the-job training, but many employers require an ambulance safe driving course and a specialized ambulance driver certificate, such as an Emergency Vehicle Operator Course (EVOC). Developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, this course combines classroom and practical experience. It covers topics like safe driving, navigation and GPS, and legal requirements for ambulance drivers. The course usually requires that the student have one year of emergency vehicle driving experience before qualifying for the certificate.
How Much Do Ambulance Drivers Get Paid?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary* for ambulance drivers in 2019 was $29,600 and the top 10% earned over $43,570.
On the other hand, the average salary* for EMTs and paramedics was $37,760 and the top 10% earned over $58,640 (BLS). Furthermore, the demand for EMT-ambulance drivers is expected to grow faster than the average career field through 2028 (BLS).
Top Paying States for Ambulance Drivers and Job Requirements
Below are the 5 top paying states for ambulance drivers and a brief explanation of what qualifications are required by employers in those states.
|State||Average Hourly Wage||Average Salary|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
How to Become an Ambulance Driver in Nevada
Nevada requires every ambulance driver to be a certified EMT-Basic level or higher (subject to some exceptions made for localities with fewer than 2,000 people). Nevada also requires ambulance drivers to successfully complete an EVOC program (source).
How to Become an Ambulance Driver in California
In California, ambulance drivers are typically EMTs. California does not require ambulance drivers to complete EVOC training, but does require an Ambulance Driver certificate. When renewing the Ambulance Driver certificate, drivers must possess a valid Emergency Medical Technician (EMT-1) certificate (source).
How to Become an Ambulance Driver in New York
In New York, ambulance drivers are typically EMTs. At least one member of an ambulance crew must be an EMT. New York does not require ambulance drivers to complete EVOC training (source).
How to Become an Ambulance Driver in Massachusetts
Massachusetts requires an ambulance driver to be an EMT-Basic, certified by the National Registry of EMTs (NREMT) and earn Massachusetts EMT certification. Massachusetts does not require ambulance drivers to complete EVOC training (source).
How to Become an Ambulance Driver in Arizona
Most ambulance drivers in Arizona are EMTs. EMTs are required to have current Arizona certification. Arizona does not require ambulance drivers to complete EVOC training (source).
Once you are hired by most agencies in Arizona, however, most employers will require to complete EVOC training either before or during orientation.
Top Paying Cities for Ambulance Drivers
Here is a list of top paying cities for ambulance drivers, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
|City||Average Hourly Wage||Average Salary|
|New York, NY||$16.77||$34,890|
|San Francisco, CA||$15.08||$31,360|
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